Elizabeth was Queen of the United Kingdom my entire life, and now Charles and Camille have taken the throne. I guess I never actually believed the Queen would die, maybe because her life seemed more like a fairy tale than reality. Sadly, as with all things, it has come to an end.
But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I just like to coalesce events when they’re happening simultaneously, but between the Oaks and the Queen, mingling might be a stretch.
Years ago, when I first started publishing a blog, I committed to daily postings for one summer. And under the duress of extenuating circumstances, I almost quit. The end of summer was fast approaching when we experienced a troubling family event, and I was not only upset but confused and had lost my motivation to write.
My husband felt much the same (except about the writing), and our mutual anxieties were bouncing off each other as if a fierce game of racket ball, and can I just say, I was losing?
So I did what I always do when I feel overwhelmed. I grabbed my computer and a cup of coffee and started walking to my mom’s condo in Los Gatos. It’s a seven-mile hike, the perfect escape, and if I thought it would do me good to put a little distance between me and my enmity, I was completely wrong.
Like the death of the Queen, it changed everything.
At the time, my Mom resided in California about five months out of the year for tax purposes, and the rest of the time, she stayed in her home in Washington. This left the condo empty much of the time, with an extra car parked in her carport. It’s a gated community, the grounds are lovely, and because they have an over 50 age requirement to live there, it’s extremely quiet.
The perfect place to retreat and lick my wounds.
On my way to my safe haven, I made an unscheduled stop between the oaks. It’s my favorite spot on the trail. There are these two gigantic oak trees with limbs intertwined, surrounded by grass, with a view of the lake.
I laid down right between the two trunks.
As John Lubbock says, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
This ended up being true for me.
For me, trees are sanctuaries. As Herman Hesse says, whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts. They preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
So deep! Maybe too deep before that second cup of coffee.
As I lay there relishing in my woes and my childish thoughts, I unloaded the entire gut-wrenching saga on the trees. They were ever so accommodating, not one interruption, only a cool breeze every now and then as they swayed over my agonizing tale.
Hesse says the thing about trees can be found in the rings of their years. Their scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness, and prosperity are written in the rings. The narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured.
They are alive, they have memories, and they scar just like us.
I don’t know how long I basked in their comfort, but by the time I stood up, I was feeling absolved and fortified. The heaviness of my anxiety was replaced with a sense of worth. I kept hearing the words, stand tall, root yourself in your own values, and trust your heart.
Lying under those trees was a very fortuitous event for me because I remembered that I was a creation of God, and if this is true, then my labor is holy. So I picked myself up off the ground and decided this is how I must (try to) live.
I was so engulfed in these thoughts I don’t remember walking the rest of the way to moms.
After letting myself in and settling into one of the lush recliners, I turned on a podcast by Krista Tippett. She was interviewing John O’Donohue just before his unexpected death. They discussed things like beauty “as a rounded substantial becoming, as an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”
I was hooked.
They declared that our most intimate relationships are truly an aspect of the divine. These are the people who love us deeply, who remind us of our goodness, and who help us to become our best selves. We should surround ourselves with these types of people.
I was sitting there thinking about how we awaken the best or worst in each other through the fruition of our inner selves when it became clear to me that the quality of people with whom I associate affects the quality of the person I am becoming.
After listening to the interview at least three times, soaking up their wisdom as if a sponge, I started writing and writing and writing. Then I ordered John’s book and posted the blog, tagging Krista.
It was early evening when Larry showed up with a bag of Chinese food and a gracious apology.
He said, “I need you.” It was the question I had been immersing myself in for the better half of the day because how we show up for each other matters.
I said, “I need you more,” and by candlelight, we consumed pot stickers and cashew chicken. We sipped wine. We rested in the shelter of each other.
I woke up the next morning feeling as if I was a new person. I was no longer harboring all those anxious feelings, frustration, or anger. I was strangely calm and grateful.
And sort of on fire about forming a strong community of people I could both depend on and support in times of need. Some of you don’t know it, but I went after you with a shovel, I dug you in, sprinkled the ground with holy water, and planted a sign in the midst of my garden ~ Grow Damn It.
I’m still charmed by the way you bloom.
When I glanced at my blog hits the following morning, I thought something was wrong, as my numbers were off the charts and continuing to climb.
What I didn’t know is Krista Tippett wrote on her Twitter account that she loved my blog. She linked my recent post at the top of her feed and went on a sabbatical for a month.
She’ll never know how she changed my life. I kept at it because someone validated what I was doing. It’s so important to be seen in this world. To feel safe. Beloved. Trusted.
On a training hike for the Camino, Larry and I returned to the trees yesterday. We sat down in the very same spot as I did all those years ago, and we listened. Well, I listened. He sort of waited patiently for me to indicate when I was ready to go.
I think the strength of a tree is trust, and as I learned on my first visit, this is also our strength. This experience changed how I show up for my communities and the time I spend cultivating friendships that matter. It changed how I understand my place in this insane world.
Our strength is our community. We save each other. It’s mutual by design. Like tiling the soil, it’s the groundwork for successfully splicing lives, people so rooted in love they carve deep grooves of kindness in each other’s aging trunks.
I love how Hesse says, “it is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother… Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.”
And someday, like the Queen, I will fall ill, and I know exactly who to call. Please don’t change your number! And when my children take the throne, I hope I am as beloved as the queen, who now lies permanently under the oaks. And that, my friends, is a proper mingling.
It does not escape me that I was on my way to my mother’s when this all came to be. I was longing for home but what I discovered is home is something we carry with us. We offer it as a sanctuary to the ones we love. We open it to the suffering of others. It’s our source of great love, nurturing, and of course, immeasurable treasures.
I’m Living in the Gap, basking in the shade of wisdom, love to hear your thoughts.